Power relief measures pass parliament

Controversial energy relief bill passes parliament

Energy relief measures have passed the parliament despite crossbench and Opposition attempts to change the laws.

The measures are expected to cut $230 from power bills next year.

The laws cap gas at $12 a gigajoule, introduce a mandatory code of conduct for the gas market and roll out power bill support for welfare recipients.

Parliament was recalled for an extraordinary sitting day to pass the measures and MPs were given shorter time limits for debate.

The bill passed the upper house after the Greens, independent senator David Pocock and crossbencher Tammy Tyrrell backed the proposal.

‘Alleviate pressure on households’

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the measures would help to lower the cost of rising energy prices, which had been driven up by the war in Ukraine.

“These bills are designed specifically to alleviate pressure on households, to stand up for jobs, to stand up for industry, to stand up for manufacturing,” she told parliament.

“We have a responsibility as a government to deal with the situation that has been unfolding over the last six months.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt sought an amendment to freeze power bills for the next two years by increasing taxes on gas and coal companies but was unsuccessful.

‘Shamelessly profiteering’ off war in Ukraine

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie also supported a windfall tax on energy companies who were “shamelessly profiteering” off the war in Ukraine and soaring prices at the expense of Australian consumers.

An amendment from independent Monique Ryan requiring the government to explain how they reached their proposed price cap was also voted down.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government was in discussions with the consumer watchdog about the best way to make the details that informed its decision public.

He urged MPs to choose to help Australians who are being confronted with unsustainable and unacceptable energy price rises by supporting the proposal.

Intervention needed to protect consumers

“Without intervention, next financial year retail gas prices are expected to increase by a further 20 per cent and electricity prices by a further 36 per cent,” he told parliament.

Dr Chalmers said the government respected the role the gas industry played in Australia’s economy but had a responsibility to find a solution to protect Australians from increasing power bills.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, whose party voted against the bill, said he backed relief measures but did not want market intervention.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the former Coalition government had been “addicted to power and hopeless on energy”.

Jacqui Lambie Network senator Tammy Tyrrell said debate on the relief measures had been rushed and the bill had flaws but lowering power costs was needed.

“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” she said.

Australian Energy Regulator chair Clare Savage said energy contracts for next financial year were already heading in the right direction, easing fears prices were set to skyrocket.

She said government modelling showing prices would be $230 less than expected was likely around the mark.


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